Nation & Person – Bullying & Difference: The Bully Project

I am a person who has been bullied.  As a child in both Japan and the United States, I was the target of bullying.  Both of my parents were also targeted.  The imagined ideal, given to us by our cultures and societies, in the context of certain times, when certain things are happening, allow bullying as a fabric of  legitimizing ‘survival of the fittest’ memes that circulate as universal natural sciences, masquerading as social science as well.

We handle being targeted differently, according to severity, our personalities, the communities we live in or transition into, the time period and circumstances, as well as an effect that anyone hardly mentions:  accumulation.  Bullying is not just about a person or group targeting someone for their looks and/or behavior or race and other factors perceived as ‘go’ lights to offend and abuse, maim and kill spirits.  It is mixed with national and cultural histories as well.  It is usually repetitive because it is the relationship between dominant and subordinate.

As an example; in my mother’s case, she was born in China, then her family fled to Japan when she was little.  Her mother was assassinated by national Japanese soldiers.  My mother’s mother was Chinese and Austrian.  All non-Japanese in Japan in the late 1930s and early 1940s, were suspect and were mostly accused of being spies.  In Japanese schools and neighborhoods, under the fascist dictatorship of Tojo, the police were basically terrorists.  In addition, some people in every neighborhood would be branded ‘good citizens’ by being the neighborhood watch, reporting to authorities and being free to hold people and situations they deemed ‘un-national’ and unpatriotic.  Of course.  As one can guess from this scenario, the racism intensifies, legitimizing very harsh penalties for Japanese who even socialize with or are seen with a non-Japanese, much less being free to marry or whose parents and relations were from different nations and cultures.  This scenario also legitimates all sorts of lies and stories that could be made as a tool of power if one simply doesn’t like someone.  Someone may invent a sordid story which suddenly becomes more true and believable at this point, legitimizing violence.  This scenario, is not too different from other areas and times around the world, when the building of a nation rests on certain intensifications of racism and other forms of marginalizations including local stigmas, legitimating superiorities and punishments.

In addition, my mother experienced being bombed by the Americans and having an older sister killed in Hiroshima.  Another older sister of my mother’s committed suicide after social stigmatization.  She had been kidnapped and made a comfort woman for the Japanese imperial army.  My mother was bullied in elementary and junior high school in Japan, for being non-pure Japanese.  In high school, my mother became a bully, belonging to a band of girls feared at her school.  It is not that one decides, necessarily.  The circumstances warrant some response.  In any case, violence does not just go away.  It always has effects.

One can imagine this tender beautiful, funny woman who is my mother, at certain times, would become an ugly and scary, violent woman.  I would sometimes fear her as much as love her as a mother and confidant.  The fabric of all of our lives are made of this.  Those people who experience non-violence in the home, have most likely been shielded from the exploitative violences that have shaped privilege.  Privilege is sometimes un-thought, unspoken.  For instance, a Japanese woman who has experienced fascist governments, suicides, daily humiliations by classmates, abuse and being ordered around by a stepmother and older brother and is bombed by the Americans everyday and a host of other things, cannot be told to be peaceful and quiet and good.  While that is true, many Americans think that they should, while their families were the ones building the bombs and making the American war effort succeed without bombs to run from or fascist government dictates.  They have been told that the Japanese were bugs that should be smashed off of the face of the earth and that Japanese knew nothing of democracy.  It was a sham, a propaganda, a way to be superior.  The Japanese would also make stories of the Americans and this would keep the violence at a high level in both countries.  Whether one was a soldier or not, it doesn’t matter.  The racist hate-mails I receive in the present day, are not from former US soldiers in the World War fighting the Japanese.  People calling me ‘Jap’ and slant-eye that should die, often come from young people.  Their grandparents have passed it down.  There is a certain worldview.  It is politically incorrect so it is not around on postcards and bugs bunny cartoon shows, or in magazines as they were regularlyduring  the war.  The hatred is kept private, and comes out towards people like myself, unseen to others.  It is often a surprise to classmates and friends and sometimes those racist-carrying people would be defended and I would be labeled a paranoid lunatic who is making it up.  This scenario is one such generalized example of the legacy of racism and legitimate bullying and how it is carried forward.  It looks differently according to climate and circumstance, etc. but it is still there.  Other people have gone through changes about this.  In my mother’s case, being told to be ‘good’  by people who are in a privileged position in relation to the history between the Japanese and the Americans, the being told is a furthering of the bullying.  It already establishes a positioning in relation to violence.  The privileged who carry out the violence, then continues to tell people how they should act in relation to the violence?  This is violence as well.  My mother did not invent fascism.  She was a little girl in a country that was ruled by fascist leaders.  It was not pretty.  But neither was what Woodrow Wilson and the other bankers and corporatists and the military leaders of the US and England did, continuing to fabricate reasons to amass finances and resource-power through militarization and superiority over the Asian nations, attempting to colonize before the World War.

Bullying has many faces.  The inter-personal bullying is a part of how nation-states can become strong.  Bullying is a way in which we may choose ‘the strong’ over the weak.  The CIA recruits people who do not have feelings and who can carry out orders with a smile.  They know how to smile and be charming.  Being detached from compassion is a part of smiling and being charming.  They don’t have to be mutually exclusive.  Some of the coldest and calculating people are the most charming.  Yet they are the quiet bullies.  Some are more overtly aggressive while others do it covertly.  Torturing is a learned thing.

In the movieThe Bully Project ( http://www.thebullyproject.com/_/Bully_Project_home.html) one notes in one of the stories that even after a youth kills himself, the bullies come to school wearing fake nooses around their necks as a furthering torment.  It is continuing fun.  It is not thought of as something bad or wrong.  There are smiles and laughter and joinings in. The school board continued to ignore it, because it was embarrassing to them.  They wanted it quiet.  The parents had fought long and hard and yet the school officials kept it hushed.  These parents, however, did not give up.  It is sad that so many of the parents of the other children (the majority), did nothing but listen to the speeches like it was entertainment, telling their children to stay away from the families of the bullied.  In this way, the institution, the school, condones the bullies.  It knew it was.

In doing anthropological/sociological research on prison systems, and the spread of US systems into Turkey and Japan, for instance, which I have done, it became clear how prison systems are related to bullying and the spread of military superiority.  Time and again, when interviewing prisoners and former prisoners as well as prison guards and interrogators, whether reading their accounts or interviewing them myself, that it was important that the military had those who are expert bullies who felt nothing in relation to perpetrating interrogations and torture.

Nowadays, in the television programs and the most popular movies, violent and malevolent speech and physical brutality as a way of communicating distaste and devaluing the other is commonplace.  Smartass comments are funny, even though it is often violent.  Often, nothing different can enter.  As much as we think that every individual makes their own decisions, every individual is in a different position in relation to violence, and depends on class, race, and behavior in relation to masculinity and femininity continuums, body motion techniques (do I walk right? eat right? talk right? etc.).  So the connection between violence, heterosexism and homophobia, patriarchy and militarism are very close in American society and most of the wealthier nations.  Most likely this is becoming more true as we speak, in a globalizing world, in the wannabe countries.  There is less diversity than ever before.  More violence in the world than ever before.  Why?

I want to applaud and support The Bully Project for being one of the strongest voices to speak to bullying and its connection to nation-state, masculinity and manhood, and the non-acceptance of difference.  If we cannot co-opt and/or recruit into our own fold, then we antagonize and destroy.  These are the only options increasingly in the globalizing system.  And we know there are most of us living, who fake it.  Then we wonder why we are depressed, seeing therapists, destroying our families, getting drunk and doing drugs all the time, having addictions, etc. etc.  I do not believe we need more drugs and therapists to cure.  These are social problems related to the violence that is our modern and postmodern cultures, constantly being created by either our actions or our inactions.

My mother turned to bullying for awhile, to combat being swallowed by bullies.  that aspect of her has not changed, even though she is no longer throwing her weight around in school hallways.  Others like myself, chose more silence.  However, later it caught up with me and I tried to take leave of this world.  It didn’t work. Suicide is an ultimate harm to oneself.  I chose other routes afterwards.  My father took the route of trying to assimilate.  As a Black man in the US, he wanted to be the fairest, well-spoken and educated, open-minded man and was truly a humanist.  But he gave up so much in order to be this.  And humanism has so many problems insofar as diversity is concerned.  And there are some things he does not understand because of it.  Short of accusing my father of being ‘white,’ how can we communicate through difference?  My father feels (at least the last few times we spoke) that all humans are alike with trivial differences.  His actions also speak to this philosophy.  My mother is the opposite.  She feels that people are very different and this cannot be reconciled and we have to live with it.

The Bully Project, which is a movie that shows the crisis in which US society shows itself in young people, yet is mostly ignored.  This Project addresses questions about what is legitimated socially and about community and nation.  How can a nation have nice and compassionate kids while everyday we know that bombs fall representing us, onto families who are not running governments, being killed as pawns of difference-equals-expendable?  All the moral preaching won’t work.  It is a lesson in hypocrisy and illegitimacy.  It is a lesson in the violent underpinning of Empire and nation-building.

The Bully Project is about all of us, whether we believe so or not.  Where do you stand? What do we do?

The Bully Project website:  http://www.thebullyproject.com/_/Bully_Project_home.html

No Bully website:  http://www.nobully.com/

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Impunity and the Fabric of Society: commentary

This is a commentary for the previous post – on the 108 Judo class deaths in Japan.

Kobayashi Yasuhiko skipped his judo class at a junior high school in Yokohama Japan.  Later that day, he was pronounced dead.  According to the way this plays out in the courts, as well as in Japanese popular society, it is ‘an accident.’   What happens to people when they are not persons with lives and histories, but are a part of a large society, culture, nation and are nothing but statistics?  It favors refusing to take care.  It favors ignoring.  It favors ‘life as usual’ for most of us.  In this way, as our so-called ‘free’ societies such as the US, Japan, most Western European countries, Turkey, South Korea, and all those so-called ‘democratic’ and almosts, create an illusion of freedom as bestowed upon us by a kind and benevolent, well-intentioned society.

What happened to Kobayashi Yasukhiko was that the judo teacher had to punish him for being undisciplined, for missing a practice.  So when the student arrived at the school, the judo teacher demanded a match with his ranking judo superior and champion in a punishing and grueling match.  He was choked by that champion to the floor, then choked again by the teacher while they grappled him and threw him violently onto the floor.  The boy experienced severe internal bleeding (subdural hematoma) and died.  This is an ‘accident’ in Japanese society.

Now there is an association in Japan called ‘Japan Judo Accident Victims Association.’ http://judojiko.net/eng/

Do we not find this perverse? I am not questioning the group itself, it is needed.  What I question is the violence of a dominant society that makes the forming of this group necessary.  In all countries, this is a problem: the state’s refusal to take care of its subjects.  In this sense, the violence is a monopoly of the state and it can ignore citizens if it needs to protect itself.  The state, being an imaginative outline on a map with its police, prisons, military, and industries and institutions, imagines itself as having to protect itself.  The people who work for the state, imagine themselves to BE the state! Imagine this!  So victims of legitimized violence must suffer enough to found an association so that their voice can be taken seriously by the state.  What harm does the state see it taking in when a group of parents say that there is a strange legitimizing of violent and abusive behaviors that pass for normal and okay in society?

The problem starts with the silencing of ‘being killed’ and the replacement with the term ‘dying’ (assumes non-intention by a person or group and blame is placed on a disease or accident)  or ‘death ( just a statistic somewhere).  People are being killed by active agents that are most often a complex nexus of legitimate events, things, spaces and cultural systems (such as ‘boys will be boys’ and ‘survival of the fittest’).

Silence is a weapon of the rulers.  Silence must be counted upon as a major factor in maintaining a society.  Making something as an individual anomaly, an individual issue, is counted upon and is effective in most of the first world nations today, and others as well.  On the other spectrum in these societies, there is also the parallel motivation to blame everything on the state and the government.  So on the one hand, it is individualized, made an individual case.  On the other hand, it is something that the government and the state must take care of, it’s not our individual fault.  Both of these trajectories, dualistic poles of behavior, are from the issue of individuals in increasingly individualizing societies, that disempower by disengaging.  The self has tremendous pressure and the only thing it knows is that it is under a system, but at other times it is never that system (ignoring).

In another instance, Japan was at the center of an international controversy surrounding increasing numbers of people dieing while at work.  This phenomena, called:  karōshi 過労死  ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karōshi ) became almost an embarassment for the Japanese, once internationalized.  At the beginning, when the first few had died, the Japanese government used the excuse that if this were a workplace problem, then all people who are over-worked while working, should be dying.  But since they are not, it is not the workplace or the government who is responsible, but this is specific to those individuals.  On these grounds, there was no compensation.  What the hell??  But doesn’t this sound familiar?  As the state and corporations run most of our lives anyway, when convenient, they have the lawyers and thinkers to have logical defenses such as those, to make individual lives suddenly not their responsibility.  Individual differences in increasingly individualizing societies, are individually more free to roam around and make personal choices and have personal opinions, but the body, the health, the worldviews and the movement of the body in certain ways here and there, and in this way (think of brushing teeth every morning, then jogging, then eating breakfast, then going to work, then stopping for a drink after work, then going home and seeing family, then watching television, then waiting for the weekend–over and over again and over again)  seals our bodies in certain ways and repetitions.  Mechanized lives that we don’t recognize as mechanized, routine-ized.   For the wealthy, they rarely follow these routines so they are totally unconcerned about the bulk of the people in their own societies.  There is NO RECIPROCAL relationship in individual societies.  Each of us do what we do.  So in BEING KILLED, we just call it one person’s death in this way, or he or she or that dies in this way.  Oh how unfortunate.

Well, unfortunately for Japan, at least, more and more people are questioning this disconnect between the people working for and caring for certain things but this care NOT BEING RETURNED, not being reciprocated.  I can almost hear some people now reading this—–‘who says it has to be reciprocal?  We are FREE TO LEAVE.’   Such is how individual freedom goes.  Leaving something we need, or leaving something we love, or feel connected to is Painful, and perhaps life-killing.  But we rarely acknowledge this.  Increasingly, especially in the world’s wealthiest nations, all that we are is in our heads and our bodies are just there to carry our heads around.  We stomp on the earth, we pollute, we say whatever, think whatever, other people have their realities, I have my own, what else is there…… etc. etc.   To me, this is what the Buddhists call the ‘Age of degeneration.’   The Bible calls ‘The End times”.   Self-hatred is there.  It is not natural but certainly foretold and followed.

Yasuhiko’s story, being killed by his judo teacher; and the Japanese salary-men’s deaths at work, seem to be ‘the way things are.’  They supposedly are not killed by the silent and abusive modern society we live in, by our ignorance.  Even if we understand it, we don’t seem to have any creativity enough to fight it so we may succumb to silently going about our business.  Others find ways to begin subverting, and then changing things for the better.

Corporate and government leaders, and all leaders of anything in society, must be held accountable for how things are.  At the same time, we ourselves, whether leaders or not, must be held accountable for whatever we do to disempower ourselves, or become arrogant in thinking that we do not need guides and teachers in our lives.  We must continue to think and perhaps think better than we do now, in our complex world, to navigate the various mental and emotional games we have all learned to play in the modern world to get by.  That, I feel, is the most challenging aspect of social change.

I pray and work hard for people to begin thinking about what kind of societies we live in and therefore participate in the killing of ourselves and others and the ecology willingly.   And I pray that we become empowered instead of paralyzed by our sadness and rage, to empower ourselves to work differently.  First, we must recognize the difference between ‘being killed’ and ‘dieing.’  Silence by a nexus of gendered notions of toughness and legitimate forms of disciplining, which can allow abuse and hatred and condones it, and how this spreads to all aspects of society in the family , the workplace and leisure and to human relations and nations–must mean that these are not natural but made-up and that these can be changed through equal amounts of work in new directions.

In what various ways and methods does your society, culture, nation, neighborhood, family, participate in the collusion of violence that passes for silence and manhood, ‘bad’ personalities and nature?  In what ways can we begin to seriously look at this issue, bring discussions and come to formulate ways to stop maintaining the fiction of these things as ‘nature’ and inevitable?  In what ways do masculinities become linked with violence as natural?  In what ways does this masculinity, then, become beneficial to strong societies that want to maintain themselves (military strength and the militarization of society)?  In what ways are women and non-males inscribed in an empowerment that is falsely viewed as such but in reality is a patriarchal form of power, a violent-ization of power; and is an intensification of sexism?  How do women internalize patriarchal violence in order to be ‘equal,’ and perpetrating violences? In what ways can all of these things be changed?  How could Yasuhiko still be in judo classes, perhaps performing the sport that he loves, without being killed, then labelled an accident?

108 school judo class deaths but no charges, only silence | The Japan Times Online

Impunity and the Social Fabric of Violent societies–

A junior high boy is thrown to the mat after a ‘discipline’ session by his judo instructor, with the help of the senior student and judo champion.  He then, dies.

This happens time and time again in Japan, and other countries, in some form, as a way of discipline.

It goes as ‘unfortunate’ and ‘an accident’ and ‘boys will be boys.’

It goes that this is a fabric of our democratic society.  This is what happens when violence is allowed and individualized.  It takes the pressure off of the social/cultural fabric and system and places it on these individuals.  This is also about gender.  This also happens to women, girls, gay and LGBTQIQ folks as well, but is a regular and accepted ‘natural’ (supposedly) phenomena between males in most societies.  We must protect women and children, but boys???

108 school judo class deaths but no charges, only silence | The Japan Times Online.